By Yoon S. Park
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When one thinks of fashion, cities such as Milan, Paris, London, Tokyo, and New York immediately come to mind.
Where does Seattle fit into that mix? According to local boutique owner Michelle Kim, Seattle fashion is — in a word — safe. It’s safe both in style and color, with the local uniform composed mainly of “Ugg boots, 7 [for All Mankind] jeans, and a North Face jacket.”
Having grown up in the Seattle area, Kim attended college in Washington, D.C., and lived for some time in New York. She moved back to Seattle about three years ago.
Initially, she considered venturing into the spa business, but she soon realized that its market was already saturated. Her strong passion for fashion eventually materialized when she opened up RUE — an upscale boutique clothing store in downtown Seattle.
While New York City has plenty of boutiques, Kim lamented that she couldn’t find many like it here. She wanted to bring that feeling of “big city shopping” to downtown Seattle but without the big labels and cookie-cutter styles that are prevalent in the local department store chains.
In fact, she purposely stays away from these labels or brands and instead tries to find designers more in line with her vision of style and fashion. She wants to support the “independent unsung heroes,” as she calls them. One such local designer is Boje. RUE carries a line of Boje wallets made of oil-cloth, which is among its most popular accessories.
Kim describes the style of clothing and accessories that RUE carries as “simple, classic lines with an edgy touch.” In other words, it’s clothing that can be worn year after year. She points to pieces by Lewis Cho, a label created by two female designers based in New York.
Kim finds that she continues to be influenced by the style and energy of New York. She prefers the influences from that city over trends coming from Los Angeles.
Acknowledging her love for traveling, Kim says she hopes to soon visit London and Tokyo to seek out new designers and labels. She is looking to carry more pieces by Japanese designers, stating that they are at one of the highest levels of creativity in the fashion industry at the moment. She is enamored by many of the styles she sees featured in international fashion magazines such as Vivi.
Walking into RUE, it’s clear that dresses are the main attraction. From casual to cocktail dresses, the lively colors and styles tempt you to take a closer look inside. Not content to merely operate her own store, Kim has branched out into the world of designing. She has created designs, which, with a help of a seamstress, now hang in her store.
Whether they are looking for dresses or the perfect blouse, Kim tries to bring the boutique experience to her customers. She and her staff create a dialogue with her clients, asking pointed questions to get an idea of what the customer is looking for. Kim says that trends are fun to watch, but she wants to provide practical pieces and “help women develop their own style.”
This young, multitalented woman with Korean American roots seemingly has no limitations. She is planning to expand her business with an online store for a virtual gallery experience. In addition, she also opened an art gallery on the second floor of her boutique, which has recently hosted a fundraiser for Friends of the Orphans. (end)
For more information, visit www.rueseattle.com. RUE is located at 611 Stewart Street in Seattle and is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Yoon S. Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.